Friday, February 22, 2013



Can you tell where my brain is this week?  DJa, Dja!  (The ‘D’ is silent.)  It’s Oscar Fever!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not some popcorn-tossing, 3-D glasses wearing, foreign-film-director-name-dropping movie aficionado.  This is not a movie blog.  Oscars, for me, aren’t really about who wins, because it’s subjective, right?  I know I enjoyed Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook most, but will my fav three get the nod?  Unlikely.  So the actual winners are kind of secondary, tertiary or quaternary in importance; it’s about the party, the shebang, the hootenanny, the hullaballoo!

(That said, I still have my lil' fingeeees crossed for the incomparable, many-tongued Christoph Waltz. Grrrr! )

The Empress and I are hosting our fifth Annual Shindig Soiree on Sunday, and it is consuming every waking moment.  I am writing, inhaling and hallucinating lyrics right now, and you know what?  It feels great!  For those of you who live far and wide, for my reader in Latvia—“Hello, Latvia!”—for poor souls who have lived with us right on your doorstep but never attended, this isn’t any ordinary gathering of dry, beige movie conflab, or drab collective of friends recycling old bridesmaid’s dresses and commenting on red carpet fashion!  This is Tina Fey and Amy Poehler meets Weird Al, with a sprinkling of Ru Paul.  And if that don’t sound fun, I’m a militant lesbian communist bishop!

This year, the Empress and I have written songs--well, parodies is probably a better term--for each of the best picture nominations which we will “sing/rap/perform” for the delectation and delight of our togged-up party-goers!  (Yes, I typed 'rap'.  Which I am learning is really quite the challenge of brain and mouth synchrony.)  So, that is where my writing brain has been this week, and I hope you forgive me, because this blog is mainly a long-winded explanation of why my syllable-stylin’ is spent; and if this serves as a subtle-as-a-belly-dancing-turquoise-elephant-crooning-Non, Je ne regrette rien-and-smoking-cheroots plug, then so be it!
"Elephants like belly-dancing.  Entertaining their friends.  Watch their bellies wibble-wobble. Even when the music ends."

Would it spoil the surprise if I revealed my favourite rhymes?  It probably would, so I will leave you dangling in the hopes that you will instead decide to join us at Posh; that you will venture forth on Sunday night because you are fun, dear Reader!  You are!  And maybe you enjoy a delicious meal, or champagne and canapés in raucous company!  Perhaps, you enjoy a flutter on the Oscar nominations and want to jump in the pool, or fancy yourself a trivia fiend and want to win the array of kindly donated prizes.  Clearly, you like to give back and support special needs children—not the Empress and I, but Camp Create, which half the pool will go to help fund.  Maybe, you just like getting gussied up!  Whatever your reason, willkommen!  Bienvenue!  Welcome!

Because meine damen und herren, this year will be like no other!  This is the year we sing of naked mandingos!  (And no! We don’t mean hairless Australian prairie dogs who eat babies!)  We belt songs of angry men and odes to Daniel Day Lewis’s beard!  We trill of bi-polar crazies in need of pfa’s!  We make strange noises about a child in the grimy Bathtub!  We coo of pigeon’s not crapping indoors! We see a little silhouetto of man with a mullet!  We start singing bye, bye little Indian Pi!  With gusto we chant of a starving bald single mother forced into prostitution and a cast in desperate need of anti-wrinkle skin care!  (I can help, Hugh, I can help!)  And we rhyme llamas and banana with Osama!  WHERE, fair reader, WHERE would you find this?

Posh, at the Scranton Club on Sunday 24th February, of course!  visit Posh!  So come!  Get gussied and gastro-ed and giggled.  It’s for the children! Visit Camp Create (And for fun.)   (And our egos’.)
There.  Turquoise elephant on the screen.
And enormous thanks to the musical genius and magical fingers of newly wed Marko Marcinko!  Meet Marko!


Friday, February 15, 2013

"Love is like riding or speaking French."

“Love is like riding or speaking French.  If you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the trick of it later.” 

Profound, ain’t it, Guvnor?  I’ve been thinking about this Downton Abbey quote a lot over the last couple of days, as a possible apology and reprieve for the characters in my own romantic saga, namely: The Bastardly Dicktard, The Space Cadet, The Beloved and The Heart Crusher.  Why does someone do the things they do?  What would cause someone to act callously without any reason?

I mean, we are—most of us—born with a heart, but we are not born learning how to use it.  Babies don’t care about kindness or affection or sex; they want warmth, food, familiar smells and faces, they don't want cold pants full of poo.  The affection babies are given is something they learn to enjoy and crave.  What we pick up from our parental example, is what we see and absorb: how to act; how to treat people.  And I realized, as I thought about this quote, that knowing how to love someone, or expecting that they know how to love you, how to act towards you, how to be kind, is not a guarantee. 

I mean, like swimming or riding or speaking French, we are born with the tools to do these things, but being able to utilize those tools or that muscle is something that is not just caught, but taught and developed by regular exercise and example.

So maybe on those online dating profiles, or at speed dating, or during those first few dates in between those awkward silences, we should really ask: “Are your parents happy and affectionate?  If not with one another, at least with someone?”  I think it’s a pretty interesting question.

Thing is, we are kind of screwed either way, aren’t we?

Take Papa Smurf and Bridget Jones, they are awesome.  They are my parental unit.  I am not just saying they are awesome because I know Mum will read this and therefore I might get a better birthday gift or a random, feathery hair accoutrement dans la poste; I say it because they are.  They not only taught me from the earliest memory the age-old parental mantra of “honesty being the best policy,” but they showed me by their own actions how to be receptive and open to people, how to listen, how to act with kindness and courage; and between them how to be a team taking on the world together.

They rather set the bar for me.  They set it high, and that’s a wee bit of a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, because, not everyone has been taught or shown or expects the same.  They follow the innate instincts to fuck like bunnies, but actually having a mature relationship?  That goes against innate instincts because most men should want to cop off with as many fertile women as possible; and women should instinctually want to have spawn with as many different fathers as possible!  It makes biological sense!  She would have more chaps looking after her and her brood, and less chance of the competing fathers killing her offspring, because one or more could be his; but also because the greater the diversity, the greater her chances of her genes surviving to the next generation.  But we HAVE learned this monogamist behavior, some apparently more than others.

Now, I’m no psychologist; I don’t watch Dr. Phil—although I am sure he is great--so these are just my own musings, but here it is, let’s investigate four upbringing styles as experienced by men who may or may not--don't sue me--acted dickishly.

1) Unnurturing
He had high-powered, status-is-all, don’t-interfere-or-make-a-peep-you-annoying-little-shit-son Parents.  Now, I wasn’t there when he grew up.  He was sent away fairly early and what love he was exposed to in a school full of competitive boys, goodness knows, and—thankfully—our time was short so I never got to find out, but he was rough and rude, and whilst he had all the shows of being a gentleman, he had none of the substance that put the ‘gentle’ in man; because a real gentleman will not put his ego first, a real gentleman does not have to be humorous by making fun of others.  This was all learned behavior to protect and inflate his ego.  He treated people, all people, with a kind of disdain.  When I had outgrown my usefulness to him, I was disposed of by Blackberry Messenger.  My quirky reply, never read.  Dickish.

2) Shuttlecocking
The Shuttlecocked Child was the product of parents who never really had any place being together.  His conception was a bit of surprise, to him especially.  He saw no love or affection between these two he calls Mom and Dad and it obviously confused him at an early age.  When they split up, divorced and moved apart he was a shuttlecock between the two.  The mother remarried, the father did not, but lives fairly reclusively, sheltered from the world.  That is the example, for the Shuttlecock.  So is it any wonder that he launches off to his own safe haven?  He shuts himself away, makes himself inaccessible, his heart impenetrable, because that way no one can get to him.  He can call the plays, make the shots, but he is closeted away from the action and he can never get hurt.

Thing is, sometimes you just have to open yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt, because if you don’t take that risk, if you spend the rest of your life shuttered away against the potential for hurt, you are sure to miss the things that would also bring you joy.  When you entrust someone with your time, your energy, your body, you have to take it in trust that they are a good person who wants the best for you.  The Shuttlecock may occupy himself with trivial things, but he will never know that heart-soaring wonder of looking into a set of eyes that see only him, that safe vulnerability of someone holding his face in her hands and wanting to give him the world. 

3) Pragmatic
Beloved had good pragmatic parents.  Parents that loved him beyond imagining, because he was the shining light, the all-star, the Great White Hope.  They would have flapped their arms to the moon if he asked them too, and vice versa; he became a loving man who would do anything they asked of him.  But whilst giving him tsunami’s of love, they did not show it towards each other.  So that is what he learned.  That couples were a team for the family, but not for each other.  I know Beloved will make a fabulous father, because he has learned that.  But couples who don’t watch TV in the same room; who don’t go out together, but with their friends; for whom a show of affection is giving an extra helping of meatballs and sauce, not a hand hold or a kiss, let alone a wild night of rampant, button-popping, knicker-tearing sex, are teaching their children that affection is a ‘Hollywood thing’ and has no place in a practical marriage.  I don’t want a practical marriage.  I want a heart-leaping, breath-stopping, knicker-ripping union.  I want to live with passion! 

4) Tyranny 
You know what I mean here, the old-school style of parenting, where the father generally treats the mother like slave while he is lord of the manor.  He probably has affairs.  He might get frisky with his fists.  He has a booming temper and his children are frightened shitless of him.  Maybe there is a slipper, or a belt, or a ruler, but there is something hard that is brought down on tender young skin and that’s just the way it is done in this family.  I’m the product of a good, hard slap, but it was rarely unwarranted and I harbor no ill will, but my parents—argue thought they did—would have never dreamed of laying a finger or the other.  So I learned that was unacceptable behavior.  But if you were a little boy or girl in a household with a tyrannical father, or mother, who lashed out at their partner, that would be the norm, wouldn’t it?

So, here’s my point—there are a few: maybe the Dicktard wasn’t really a Dicktard after all.  Maybe he was just a boy whose parents never gave him the attention he needed; maybe his mother never took two minutes to turn around and hug him tight and tell him that she was proud of him.  Perhaps the Shuttlecocked Space Cadet did not mean to be heartless, he has just never seen or experienced what a real partnership is, and he retreats from the unfamiliar.  Maybe Beloved will find someone who is happy just to be practical; or perhaps he will find someone who will teach him that the impractical can be make the practical even better!  And maybe the man brought up to be the domineering alpha will just find someone who adores him so very much he will forget what has gone before, and he will transform his mistrust of the world to the passion and love that he is capable of.

How we treat each other as partners, as equals, is how we are teaching our offspring to behave.  For love is not something we prove by vows, or cards, or hearts or flowers; it’s our everyday actions.
I played Viola, from Twelfth Night, when I was 15 years old.  I remember this speech and can recite the whole monologue as clear and as heartfelt now as then, but here’s the crux:
“We men may say more, swear more; but, indeed,
Our shows are more than will; for still be prove
Much in our vows, but little in our love.”

May you prove much in your love and practice it like French or riding!  Happy Valentine’s, mes chers lecteurs.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Let's Date!" "No, thanks!" In which all the Romantics Reach for the Smelling-Salts!

Sometimes I think I was born a century too late. Not that I would have enjoyed living through World War I or II, but there is something I find comfortable in the whole well-mannered, polite, corseted existence where one knows the rules and what is expected. One doesn’t dare speak of such awkward things as dating and disappointment; one's papa and mama simply have it all arranged. 

Perhaps I have watched too much Downton Abbey, or have read too much Edith Wharton.  The problem being with this type of existence--where time seems only to be measured by society balls, meals and whether it is time to change for dinner--is that I like making my own choices and loathe being limited.  I am not sure I could ever surrender Self to the whims of elder matchmaking, being paired off, discussed like an item at auction, my stats being compared with others to find the most fitting match.  Yet, I realize, it's alive and kicking, maybe not dressed up in a hoop and crinoline, but it is there, and it is huge, it's a multi-million dollar industry!  It's...ONLINE DATING.  Maybe it's necessary.  After all, we've done such stellar job of coupling ourselves--what's the divorce rate now?  50%?--that is it any wonder we want to entrust this job to a third party?  

"In the U.S. alone, the target demographic for these services is 90 million singles that are between 19 and 45. Then there are the forty percent of frequent users that are already married." (Marty Zwilling, Start Up Professionals, Inc.)  I get it, I do.  Young professionals working all hours... who has the time to trawl restaurants and charity doodahs to meet nice folks?  Specimen loitering at bars are easier to approach, but really are they the chosen one you can take home to mother?  Instead, Generation X and Y are putting their fate and faith in the hands, not of The Dowager Duchess, but the "29 dimensions of compatibility" of eHarmony,, Ok-Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, J Date... Oh lord, shoot me.

I don’t mean to poo-poo it. (I like doughnuts, once in a while.)  I like to think I am liberated, and gung ho, and huzzah carpe diem! But this morning I found myself reading of this new app for the I-phone called “Let’s Date.” My eyes widened with alarm, my pulse quickened. I needed a good rousing waft of the smelling salts, so I reached for my coffee instead and inhaled deeply. 

Let’s Date came out of the Apple Closet at the end of 2012, so I am probably WAYYYY behind the app - ball here. I bet you Krazee Kids have been using this wangle-dangle technology to lure and hook and gaff a mate for months, but, ever a tech-tard, there is a little lag for Ennie. It’s not that I’m incapable—I tweet, I Facebook, I instagram, I reluctantly Link In—but the thought of sifting through dating profiles of potential snaggle-toothed offerings who probably aren’t telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, just leaves me cold. “Granny,” as Lady Mary Crawley would call her, would do a far better job! 

Don’t get me wrong, am not being a snotty little bovine, but, well, I guess the thought of a) openly serving my heart on a page, trying to explain me without jazz hands, and putting Self out there for the perusal of weirdos, psychos and inmates... erm... not tempting; b) I never imagined explaining the story of how I met the love of my life would begin, “Well, William, I saw your father’s picture on a dating website..." Fuck the doughnuts, I'd rather eat a lizard, shave my head and join the foreign legion.

Many of my friends use online dating sites however, and I am vicariously enthralled! And is it any wonder, thus far the friends' online trail has unearthed many Disappointments, one Illiterate who "doesn't read... because (he) doesn't have any books, one Ego-Maniac, a Stalker and a Midget. (Sorry, I know midgets have feelings too, but if you plan on dating a 6ft tall lady, I believe there should be some pre-date disclosure, right?)

But this Dating App has me truly befuddled, because now Daters, you can eliminate people on-the-go, and I am stinkin’ fascinated! Like watching-plastic-surgery riveted! I know I don’t want it, but I want to watch it! I want to know exactly how it works!

The concept is to have as many daters pass before your eyes, like a human buffet, each offering shown on a card (a profile) with five adjectives, or ingredients, that make them appealing to you… or not. It’s a speed dating of sorts, a microwave meal, a rapidly-served amuse bouche to give you a little flavour. It rather reminds me of Top Trumps, or baseball cards with players stats, and you compare the adjectives and photograph to see which win a “Let’s Date” touch of the screen, or a “No, thanks.” (I do like that rejection is polite, even when micro-waving away this poor untried Human Entrée.)

You can also highlight with the handy dandy touch of your screen the characteristics or preferences you dislike. This information, combined with the Daters you decline, gives the programme more detailed info about your likes and dislikes, and will present the cards of potentials who similarly do or don’t like that trait or activity. The more cards you decline, the more traits you highlight and dislike, the more accurate a vision of what your ideal would be. It is basically a computer model that uses the power of elimination to whittle the field of potential suitors and propose a specimen you might enjoy. 

When you select your dish of the day, your own profile goes to near the top of their virtual stack of cards. If they like the sound of your menu, and similarly click, “Let’s Date,” well, colour be happy, no diggety, the Let’s Date app suggests a public meeting place based your joint interests. A conversation window pops up and apparently—how traditional!—it suggests that the chap treats the lady!

From the stats and science point of view, I think this a really interesting concept. Certainly, for quick, easy breezy cavalier, thumbs up, thumbs down, ruthless dispassionate rejection, it surely can’t be beat!  But crumble my macaroons, should there be stats and science when it comes to dating?
Here’s my problem, one can’t cover the complexity of human attraction in an i-phone photo and 5 adjectives. Sure, the model of preferences and dislikes might be a science, but it fails to include chemistry or biology. What about pheromones? You can’t add that on an app. And I know some of the chaps I have dated and enjoyed fabulous, all-consuming relationships with, I would have never picked in a squillion years; yet, there was something irresistible: a fire in his eyes, a contagious laugh, an enquiring mind, a generous heart, a bon vivre—things you just can’t relay on a five adjective long MENu. 

So it worries me that the science stats, or ill-chosen five adjectives might potentially knock out that computer geek who doesn’t own a suit, or the hunter who makes you laugh and smells so delicious to your senses, or the older man who just makes you weak-kneed with one look.

Am I saying don’t give it a go? No! Go for it, my fine Dating Friend! Enjoy, meet publicly and act kindly. But the hopeless romantic in me just quakes at the sterility, the lack of adjectives! Give me more adjectives! And maybe this will be a gateway to a longer conversation, I hope so, but the adjectives that don’t conform to your ideal, the ones that would have surprised you if you'd given them a chance, are lost in a click, consigned to cyber purgatory.

If you are traditional, confident and out-going, it’s not apps or online sites you need, it’s good people.  Surround yourself with positive friends, friends with gumption, friends to have a coffee with, lunch or dinner with, friends to adventure places with, and it's whilst enjoying life, just as you are, that you'll catch a glimpse of those intriguing eyes which stop your smile, suck the breath from your lungs and make you feel like you are the corseted heroine in an Edith Wharton novel,
“Oh… hello!”
“Hello there. Dreadfully cold, isn’t it?”
“Rather. I’ve lost complete feeling in my fingers.”
“Lord, you are looking blue. Perhaps… can I get you a coffee…?”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sense Sabotage. A Tale of Letting Go and the Regretting Foe.

Back in Blighty, we have "Jumble Sales."  They are rather like yard sales or small-scale flea markets, usually held in dank church halls, or rearranged and bleached school canteens.  They are frequented by elderly ladies who smell of lavender and have dangerously sharp elbows.  The point of a jumble sale is to get rid of all your shit that you no longer have use for, and for the church, charity or endeavour to make money.  The point of attending... well, it's slightly less well defined, but those treasure-seeking, antique-snuffling, bargain-hunting floral octogenarians, froth at the mouth to get elbow-deep in piles of jettisoned tat.

When I was about six or seven years old, old enough to know not to suck my finger, stick it up my nose or in electrical sockets; when I knew what a thunder clap crying or screaming in public would bring to my thigh, arm or any exposed part south of my head; when I knew throwing my skirt over my head was not the best tactic when playing hide-and-seek; I was asked to donate my toys to the school jumble sale.  Yes, I was asked to de-clutter my life at such an early age.  I was given the choice to pick, the Empirical power of dolly life with me, or dolly life with someone else who was not me--surely, Dolly Death!

I had a lot of toys.  I was like the Octomom of the Cabbage Patch nursery.  Certainly, I didn't NEED all those weirdly-named adopted children with squidged faces like Leonardo DiCaprio, or brightly coloured animal mutants.

I was almost nightly drowned in a sea of soft toy, smothered by Cabbage Patch Doll hair, asphyxiated by Wuzzle trunk, or tail or horn.  I was often found--so I am told--half out of bed, limbs dangling from the edge of my mattress, in slumbering retreat and surrender to the toy sprawl.

And thus--very maturely, I thought--I bundled up a bag of...rejects.  Katie was my one-eyed, hair-hacked plastic baby.  I think she was probably second-hand when given to me.  (As the youngest of two, and then of all the cousins, and a June baby to boot, so youngest in my school year, most things were second hand; by the time they got to me, someone else had loved and squeezed the shit of them, but heck, they were new to me and I was grateful.)  Katie was such a foundling.  I might have loved her at one stage, but she didn't have the cornsilk hair of my Cabbage Patch clutch; she didn't have nice clothes--she sported a knitted yellow onesie with a patchwork grass green pocket; she didn't make noise or cuddle well at all.  Frankly, she was ugly, and blinded, and, since I had got scissor-happy with her blonde hair, she rather resembled a strange lesbian pirate baby in a custard-yellow prison jumpsuit.

I gave her up without much soul-searching.  I had grown out of her.  Why not give her away at the jumble sale?  I didn't want her anymore.

She was tossed in the plastic bag, face down, yellow feet up, the handles were tied together and the bag was  thrown into the back of an open truck.  I felt so mature being able to give up my things.  I had let go of something that no longer served me.  I had decluttered!  I had move on!  I had put away childish things... and other grown-up cliches.

I must have slept well.  I was a content kid, the over-thinking consciousness was yet to kick in.  I can only imagine that I must have awoken to the sea of stuffed toys and plastic dollies in my bed and felt a Home Alone-esque, cheek-clasping realization that one of my babies was missing:  "KATIE!"

I remember running to Mum in a panic.  I had made a big mistake!   I didn't mean to give her up.  I wanted her back!  How could I get her back?!  I loved her!  She was my one-eyed lesbian convict pirate baby!

I cried.  I wailed.  Yes, I was old enough to know better, but sometimes our hearts speak without thinking.  I couldn't bear the thought of someone else cradling my baby, singing her sea shanties, and telling tales of her lost eyeball.  I didn't care that someone might love her or look after her better than I, or that I had many more pretty dolls, without bad buzz jobs.  She was mine and I wanted her back!

Mum phoned the school secretary, Mrs Windsor.  I watched intently, eyes awash and over-spilling with hot, stricken tears.  She was laughing!  How could she laugh?  I had lost my baby!

When she replaced the receiver she reeled me into her, my hot face buried at her waist.  Mrs Windsor would look for Katie she promised.  Don't worry, there would be a way to get her back.

And so it was, I later learned, that Mrs Windsor, her own children around my age, picked through the jumble of discarded belongings, through bag upon bag until she located the odd one-eye baby with the razored hair and the unenviable wardrobe.  Katie was restored to me.  I forget what happened then.  I probably made a fuss of her, told her I loved her all along and would never let her go again, but of course, I did.

I thought of that this week, decades later, as I watched a friend release their former loved one for reasons of sound judgement, and then, the panic... the self-sabotage, as the innate instinct of familiarity and belonging and ownership screams to get them back, reel them in again, bring them home, love them more.  Sometimes the screams are so loud they drown out the many little voices that raised discontent in the first place.  And this panic is human.  The thought of you without, in bed alone; the thought of your baby with someone else.  It hurts, even if you did instigate it.  But, and here is my point, if you had the gumption to let go, don't grasp back on, it's just confusing and time-wasting and pointless.

A good friend said once, "There are plenty more Muppets in the Sesame Sea," and some day, you will find one that you never consider letting go of, or donating to the jumble pile.  So chin up, dear friend.  Thrive on!

(And remember, if you get weepy, it's just "an inflammation in your tear gland.")  ;)